Microsoft Preps Sharepoint 2010, Office 2010 Public Betas

At the Sharepoint Conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Sharepoint 2010 "the biggest and most important release of Sharepoint to date" and walked attendees through its new features and functionality, much of which had previously been kept under wraps.

Sharepoint 2010 adds the ribbon user interface Microsoft introduced with Office 2007 and also includes deeper integration with Office, support for Web audio and video, and more hooks to Microsoft's Silverlight technology. A new feature called Business Connectivity Services allows developers to funnel data from external line of business applications into Sharepoint and Office more easily than in the past.

For Ballmer, whose public proclamations about Windows 7 have been somewhat muted, talking about Sharepoint is a refreshing opportunity for optimism. Sharepoint pulled in $1.3 billion in revenue over the past year for a growth rate of more than 20 percent, and along with Dynamics CRM and Office Communications Server, has been a consistent bright spot for Microsoft.

Microsoft is also introducing two new Sharepoint SKUs for Internet-facing Web sites, one that's installed on-premise, the other which Microsoft partners will host for their customers. Microsoft plans to launch Sharepoint 2010 in the first half of 2010.

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Microsoft launched an invitation-only technical preview of Office 2010 in July, touting its expanded collaboration features and integration with cloud-based apps.

Sharepoint and Office 2010 together will enable users to communicate in real time via Outlook and share and simultaneously edit Word, Excel and other Office documents. However, many of the collaborative features for Office 2010 for businesses require an on-premise deployment of SharePoint Server.

In September, Microsoft took the wraps off a technical preview of Office Web Apps, the browser-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that are intended to stem the tide of free, consumer oriented productivity suites offered by Google, Zoho, and others.

Microsoft is giving Office and Sharepoint a major overhaul to let developers extend their integration with business processes even further, and next month testers will get a chance to see for themselves if that will be enough to keep these two revenue engines humming healthily along.